Author Topic: Requesting wisdom from experience: Synth vs Arranger  (Read 957 times)

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Offline lmederos

Requesting wisdom from experience: Synth vs Arranger
« on: August 09, 2021, 05:26:16 AM »
Hi all

I currently have a PSR-E443, and it has served me well to learn to play, as a piano.

I have barely ventured into styles, but I have played with a few of the voices, and saved some registrations for combinations I like.

The time is coming when I really would like to have better sound, and Iíve been looking at upgrading to a higher-end arranger.  Iíve looked at units like the SX700/900 but as I explore more, Iíve begun to wonder whether I am better off with an arranger or a synth.  Why?  I hear the sound quality is unmatched, but I really donít know.

Below is a list of my ďwantsĒ, partly to help myself, partly to explain where I need experienced with keyboards that I donít yet have.

1.   Voices
    a.   Piano
    b.   Guitar / mandolin / oud?
    c.   Violin/Cello
    d.   Drums
    e.   Sax/Trumpet
    f.   No Techno/Disco sounds really more Classical instrument sounds
2.   Onboard speakers would be nice but not a dealbreaker as I could easily attach an external Logitech set, or my portable JBL round speakers
3.   Multiple voices/layers:  definitely
4.   Price max: ~$2000
5.   Sound quality: Really looking for the most authentic voices I can find.
6.   Keyboard:  61
7.   The more portable the better


I have never played with a synth/workstation unit, but been told that the sound is unbelievably realistic.    And as I understand, the multiple layers would be allow me to have more voices at one time than the arranger.  Since I am newbie with an arranger, there will be a learning curve regardless of choice, but I am trying to be educated before making the choice.

So, you experienced musicians/keyboardists, would you say consider that the synth is not something for me to consider given my wants?   

Thanks in advance.


-- Luis

-- Luis

PSR-SX900
 

Offline SciNote

Re: Requesting wisdom from experience: Synth vs Arranger
« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2021, 07:14:57 AM »
I would say that either a synth or an arranger can meet those specifications, depending on the unit.  Plenty of synths offer split and layering of the sounds -- you would just have to make sure the synth you purchase has those features.  And both synths and arrangers can have very authentic sounds, with, in general, more expensive units having better sound circuitry (though, these days, even lower-cost units can sound very good).

What really differentiates the two is the amount of automatic background style/accompaniment that is available, as well as how deeply the sound can be edited.

Arrangers, of course, have more comprehensive background styles and accompaniments -- that is really the defining purpose of an arranger.  Synths can have some backgrounds built in, but it is often limited to drum patterns and arpeggios.

Synths can get down to the very basic essences of the sound -- such as the basic waveforms -- then let you take multiple steps to modify, shape, and customize the sound, such as using filters to alter the sound, envelope generators to change aspects of the sound over time (from the time you hit the key to after you let go of it), and low frequency oscillators to add modulation such as vibrato, tremolo, wah-wah, and other effects.  Many higher-end arrangers provide at least some degree of this type of sound shaping, but usually not to the extent of a dedicated synth.

If automatic background styles are very important to you, I'd go with an arranger.  But if creating your own unique sounds is more important, then I'd go with a synth.  With the synth, however, if you at least want drum backgrounds, make sure that this capability is available, and check to what extent it is available, such as having the ability to provide intros, fills, and endings.  Getting a separate dedicated drum machine is also a possibility.

With built-in speakers, you are much more likely to find that on an arranger than a synth, but you said that is not a deal-breaker.

What I have done is select both options!  I have a PSR-E433 as my main keyboard.  I generally do not use full auto-accompaniment styles, but I definitely do use the styles for drum backing, and the intros, fill-ins, and endings are important to me, even just for the drum backgrounds.  But to get more custom sounds, special sounds, and sound effects that simply cannot be done on the E433, I have also added a Roland Gaia SH-01 synth to my set-up.  This is a small 3-octave synth with great capabilities that makes a great companion to my E433, and also gives me more orchestration options by being able to quickly change the sound that I am playing during a song by simply jumping from one keyboard to another.  Of course, adding a second keyboard to your set-up would affect the overall portability of your system, especially if you need to add outboard speakers, so that is also something to consider.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2021, 07:31:44 AM by SciNote »
Bob
Current: Yamaha PSR-E433, Roland GAIA SH-01, Casio CDP-200R, Casio MT-68 (wired to bass pedals)
Past: Yamaha PSR-520, PSR-510, PSR-500, DX-7, D-80 home organ, and a few Casios
 
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Offline pjd

Re: Requesting wisdom from experience: Synth vs Arranger
« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2021, 05:47:54 PM »
Hi Luis --

Great response, Bob!

My value add...

I currently play Yamaha Genos and MODX. Previously, I played PSR-S950 and MOX. Clearly, Genos is beyond your budget, but a mid-range arranger is a possibility.

In the case of instruments for Classical music, Yamaha synths and arrangers use the same basic sonic DNA (Seattle strings, solo strings, brass and woodwinds). In that regard, Genos and MODX/Montage are at rough sonic parity. There are small differences in sound set. Comparing data list PDFs should determine if the differences are important to you.

However -- and this is a biggie -- Yamaha voice synths and arrangers differently, i.e., the voice programming and use of DSP effects are different. Further, the mid-range arrangers have Super Articulation (SA) voices while MODX/Montage have Expanded Articulation (XA). XA requires button presses to invoke certain articulations while SA is triggered through (transparent) software scripting. Thus, each class of instrument requires its own approach to playing.

Piano-wise, MODX/Montage CFX presets have additional strike (velocity) levels than the mid-range arrangers. (I suspect this is true for Genos, too.)

The keybed also makes a big difference to the playing experience. I love the FSX action and wish MODX had FSX. The Montage 61 is an FSX. The MODX action is too light for satisfying piano. FSX is a better experience.

As to weight, I play MODX at my church gig (when there isn't a pandemic...) Music ranges from contemporary pop, gospel to "Classical". I'm happy with it in that role and the light weight is essential. A Montage 61 is too heavy.

Hope this info helps -- pj
 
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Offline Amwilburn

Re: Requesting wisdom from experience: Synth vs Arranger
« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2021, 06:37:09 PM »
A synth (technically a rompler sounds like what you're looking for, as opposed to an actual synthesizer like the Gaia, Moog, Dave Smith Prophet, etc. (those tend to be either monophonic, or up to 8 polyphony for the higher models, and only generate synth sounds. No Pianos, Guitars, etc).

A Rompler is like the Montage, Modx, MX88, Kronos, etc where it's like an arranger, but with more layers, and no styles (arpeggiators on the drums can't be used similarly, but they're not the same. Synth arpeggiators have different patterns, but there's no Intro/ending/fill ins/accompaniment).

If you're looking for the most authentic acoustic sounds, then probably Modx is what you're looking for (which has a nearly identical sounds to the PSRsx900, but the sx900 has a lot more features and is easier to use). But a 61 key Modx, having no speakers, is *light* (15 lbs). You can stack 8 sound layers in stead of just 3 on the right, and you can set individual key ranges for each layer (it's not just a single split; you can overlap layers if you like).

But with that extra flexibility comes more difficulty in actually using it; It's easy on the PSRsx's to turn on left, and you have a split. Quite a few more steps on the Modx.

PJD: I haven't had a Montage on hand in over a year now (scarce) but when I did, and ran them through the same speakers, it sounded like they re-used the Montage piano in the Genos (I'm about 90% sure they're the same. But not 100... like I said, havn't been able to A/B them in over a year). I'm also pretty sure the sx900 and Modx share the same (or at least very similar)  piano.

Mark

Offline SciNote

Re: Requesting wisdom from experience: Synth vs Arranger
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2021, 07:57:28 PM »
A synth (technically a rompler sounds like what you're looking for, as opposed to an actual synthesizer like the Gaia, Moog, Dave Smith Prophet, etc. (those tend to be either monophonic, or up to 8 polyphony for the higher models, and only generate synth sounds. No Pianos, Guitars, etc).

A Rompler is like the Montage, Modx, MX88, Kronos, etc where it's like an arranger, but with more layers, and no styles (arpeggiators on the drums can't be used similarly, but they're not the same. Synth arpeggiators have different patterns, but there's no Intro/ending/fill ins/accompaniment).

...

Mark

That's kind of what I was thinking concerning the drum patterns on a synth -- that it uses an arpeggio pattern with a drum kit to produce a looping drum pattern, but with no intros, fills, or endings, which could be quite important.  I do not know if any dedicated synths have more extensive drum background options built in or not.

As for polyphony, that depends on the synth.  Digital synths generally have more polyphony, as the circuitry to generate those sounds and effects has gotten much cheaper over the years, just like computers have -- and essentially, that is what they are -- computers that output the data to (eventually) a speaker, instead of a screen.  My Gaia, which is digital, has 3 separate synth sound-generators built in, and while I have yet to read a confirmation on this, I believe that if only one sound engine is being used, it has 64 note polyphony, but even with all three being used, you'd still have 21 notes of polyphony.

True analog synths generally do have much less polyphony because they are generating their sound with actual analog oscillators, and not computer circuitry (they may have computer circuitry to control, tune, and stabilize the sound, but the sound generation is analog circuitry), which means the synth needs to have a whole bunch of dedicated oscillators to get higher polyphony.  An 8-voice (8 note polyphonic) analog synth with 2 oscillators per voice would need 16 oscillators built in.  A 12-voice, 2-oscillator per voice unit would need 24 oscillators.  This can get pretty expensive, but many people prefer the sound of an analog synth.

And yes, if it is a dedicated synth, and not a ROMpler type unit, then you likely won't have much in the way of acoustic-type instruments on board.  The challenge is to see how close you can make those types of sounds with the tools available on the synth.  And of course, the synth can be used to create a wide variety of new and unique sounds that don't mimic an acoustic instrument.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2021, 07:59:27 PM by SciNote »
Bob
Current: Yamaha PSR-E433, Roland GAIA SH-01, Casio CDP-200R, Casio MT-68 (wired to bass pedals)
Past: Yamaha PSR-520, PSR-510, PSR-500, DX-7, D-80 home organ, and a few Casios
 
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Offline lmederos

Re: Requesting wisdom from experience: Synth vs Arranger
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2021, 09:12:24 PM »
Thanks to everyone who piped in.

I think I am confirming my initial thought that although the synth would be lighter and arguably may have better sounds, the pros are probably don't overpower what I can get from an arranger.  And it would be at a cost to ease of use.

Thanks again

-- Luis
-- Luis

PSR-SX900
 

Offline pjd

Re: Requesting wisdom from experience: Synth vs Arranger
« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2021, 10:51:10 PM »
PJD: I haven't had a Montage on hand in over a year now (scarce) but when I did, and ran them through the same speakers, it sounded like they re-used the Montage piano in the Genos (I'm about 90% sure they're the same. But not 100... like I said, havn't been able to A/B them in over a year). I'm also pretty sure the sx900 and Modx share the same (or at least very similar)  piano.

Mark

Hi Mark --

Fortunately, I posted the analysis:

http://sandsoftwaresound.net/yamaha-piano-voice-programming/

To boil it all down, the MODX "CFX Concert" performance consists of four parts -- 18 voice elements total. Genos voices consist of 8 elements max (single part, in Montage terms). The MODX "CFX Stage" performance has only one part -- 8 voice elements total. So, likely, the Genos "CFX ConcertGrand" voice (8 elements) is equivalent or programmed the same as the MODX "CFX Stage" (8 elements), i.e., all-rounder, one part pianos that do not tax polyphony.

The MODX "CFX Concert" and Genos "CFX ConcertGrand" are the flagship pianos on their respective instruments, so I tried to compare the flagship voices.

Wish I had the UVF file for Genos "CFX ConcertGrand". That would validate the analysis. Oh, well...   :)

The things one does to stay entertained during pandemic.

Take care -- pj

P.S. Glad to see the USA/Canada border open today. Maybe I'll get up there to see you some day.

P.P.S. Just re-read your message. Yamaha definitely reused the samples. Too costly not to do so.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2021, 10:53:16 PM by pjd »
 

Offline Amwilburn

Re: Requesting wisdom from experience: Synth vs Arranger
« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2021, 12:34:17 AM »
P.S. Glad to see the USA/Canada border open today. Maybe I'll get up there to see you some day.

That would be wicked awesome! I'm on the West Coast, I thought you were on the East Coast for some reason.

Thanks for your incredibly detailed analysis! (love your website, btw, even if it is a little beyond me now... I haven't coded in 20 years). So *is* the Genos/Montage piano an 8 dynamic sample layer then? I've been trying to nail it down, and I'd estimated between 10 and 7, but going by ear (and slowly going through the velocity layers by manually scrolling through the velocity) it's hard to hear exactly where the switch points are.

The modx piano sounded really good too, but it sounded less detailed. Using manual velocity control on the keyboard, I thought I heard 4 switch points (5 velocity layers) on the modx and Sx900.


I put the Modx8 and Montage 8 side by side through the same speakers; unlike previous 'budget' versions (Mox8 vs Motif XS, Moxf8 vs Motif XF), they sounds actually sounded the same to me, except the piano. (On the Motifs and mini Mo's, yes the 'baseline' samples were the same, but with 1 less layer of dynamic velocity samples... if the sound used 3 samples on the Motif, it used 2 on the Mox/f).

I later found rompler 'linear equivalent" (i.e expanded to 16/44.1 wav) sizes stated as 6.00 GB Montage, 5.67 on the Modx, which seemed confirm my suspicion that this time, they really were mostly the same sounds, except the piano.

Mark

Offline lmederos

Re: Requesting wisdom from experience: Synth vs Arranger
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2021, 02:57:30 AM »
I think I'm zeroing on the MODX6 or SX-900 at this point. 

I still have a little more time to save the money so will give me more time to work through the choices.

But I do wish stores around here would finally open up and stock products.


-- Luis
-- Luis

PSR-SX900
 

Offline Brian 007

Re: Requesting wisdom from experience: Synth vs Arranger
« Reply #9 on: August 10, 2021, 07:40:47 AM »
Hi.

I recently owned a Korg Kross 2 and as someone who has also played arrangers for a very long time the Kross2 to me is the nearest to
a good mix of both types of instruments, with hundreds of built in drum patterns and arps, I know its not a Yamaha but worth a look

Brian007
 

Offline mikf

Re: Requesting wisdom from experience: Synth vs Arranger
« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2021, 09:04:57 AM »
There is a lot of overlap between modern, high end, workstation/synths and arrangers, so when you buy one you get a lot of what the other does. But it is the differences that matter.
Workstation/synths are designed to allow a lot of sound and voice sequence manipulation, but have limited accompaniment features.
Arrangers are designed to allow easy use and manipulation of accompaniment but with more limited sound and voice manipulation. Itís down to the user to decide what matters most to them.
pjd provides and interesting analysis of the piano voice, but the voice itself is far from the whole story. Keyboard feel, use of pedals and overall player technique - and of course sound system- are so important in the overall piano sound, that there is diminishing return on the contribution of the voice. That is probably true for most simulated voices on the arranger.
Mike
 

Offline Jeff Hollande

Re: Requesting wisdom from experience: Synth vs Arranger
« Reply #11 on: August 10, 2021, 09:24:31 AM »
IMHO and according to my personal experience a ( pro ) synth is interesting and useful if the user is playing in a band and/or in a recording studio.

If you are a gigger or a home player, the arranger keyboard might be your best option, I guess.

But ... sometimes a gigger or a home player are owning both : an arranger and a synth.
Why not but ... keep in mind both instruments are different.

A highend arranger keyboard will also be called a workstation.  :) 

It happens organ players will add an arranger too.
Nowadays more and more organ players do not buy organs anymore and focus on arrangers only.

Weight and volume have become a serious problem for most giggers.


Bye for now, JH
« Last Edit: August 10, 2021, 10:12:28 AM by Jeff Hollande »
 

Offline DerekA

Re: Requesting wisdom from experience: Synth vs Arranger
« Reply #12 on: August 10, 2021, 09:45:16 AM »
It really does come down to the way you want to use it most of the time.

30 years ago, I had a Korg 01/W synth. I had the time, energy and inclination to program it to make the sounds I wanted, and use the sequencer to build up a track completely from scratch. Every bass note, every drum hit, every melody note. Actually. it's still in the garage - I can't bear to part with it :)

Nowadays, I just want to sit at the keyboard and play a song improvising as I want to, using good quality voices with a pre-programmed backing track complete with intro, variations and ending. I do want some editing, but limited editing is fine. So an arranger is my choice, and I'm fortunate that I have a Genos which is the best you can get.

(I do have a small virtual analog synth on the side, plugged into AUX IN, which satisfies my desire to tweak deeply when I want to)

Offline mikf

Re: Requesting wisdom from experience: Synth vs Arranger
« Reply #13 on: August 10, 2021, 11:28:13 AM »
Its a lot like the choice between a pick up, SUV, sedan and family multi passenger van. They all take you a to b without walking and out of the rain! But they are all different as well.

Offline pjd

Re: Requesting wisdom from experience: Synth vs Arranger
« Reply #14 on: August 11, 2021, 12:13:03 AM »
So *is* the Genos/Montage piano an 8 dynamic sample layer then? I've been trying to nail it down, and I'd estimated between 10 and 7, but going by ear (and slowly going through the velocity layers by manually scrolling through the velocity) it's hard to hear exactly where the switch points are.

The modx piano sounded really good too, but it sounded less detailed. Using manual velocity control on the keyboard, I thought I heard 4 switch points (5 velocity layers) on the modx and Sx900.

Hi --

I don't mean to hijack the thread and ramble about piano voices, so I'll keep this short.

Mikf: I agree about keyboard (keybed) feel. If piano experience is most important, "hammer action" is the way to go. Of course, that increases weight (less portable).

Mark: The Montage/MODX "CFX Concert" voice has the following nine velocity levels: ppp, pp, p, mp, mf, f, ff, fff, fff. The "CFX Stage" voice has five strike levels: pp, mp, f, fff, ffff.

In "CFX Concert," Yamaha cleverly overlaps additional samples to enrich the sound. It chews up polyphony twice+ as fast as "CFX Stage".

The Genos "CFX ConcertGrand" is (probably) equivalent to "CFX Stage", having five strike levels. It doesn't have overlapping samples for enrichment below G5.

The Yamaha folks at YamahaSynth swear that the Montage and MODX factory waveforms are the same. The Montage spec table on their site now claims 5.67GB, so go figure. :-)

Going back to Mikf's comment, playing a nine strike CFX on the light MODX6 keyboard is just ridiculous. It drives me nutz!!!

Great discsussion -- everyone has good points.

All the best -- pj

P.S. We moved from the Boston area to Everett, WA about six months before the pandemic. I'm now at the receiving end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. :-)


Offline lmederos

Re: Requesting wisdom from experience: Synth vs Arranger
« Reply #15 on: August 11, 2021, 11:42:25 PM »
Well, I actually found a store that had Korgs and Yamaha in stock.  I tried the PA1000 and the SX900, as that would be close enough to the PA700 and the SX700.  Both were very good, although I found the Korg complicated.

I was about to walk out when they offered me the SX900, which they had just opened for me, at a discount.   Someone had ordered it, but not picked it up after 2months of arrival.  Went back and forth and just said what I thought to be a ridiculous price --- they beat it by $100!    All in all, out the door with all taxes I paid $1800 -- that is just a bit more than I would have paid for the SX700.

It pays to ask for a discount...


-- Luis
-- Luis

PSR-SX900
 

Offline Amwilburn

Re: Requesting wisdom from experience: Synth vs Arranger
« Reply #16 on: August 12, 2021, 06:37:44 PM »
Thanks for the incredibly detailed breakdown, Paul!

Although that leaves me scratching my head a little, since the sx900 is also a 5 layer (I believe; it sounds *much* clearer than the 4 layer from T4/s970) you're telling me... that you built a time mahcine... out of a Delorean?

Sorry (pop culture reflex), I mean... you're telling me... that they used the same depth of sample layers as on the Genos? I'm incredulous.

Imederos: sx900 was the best choice, yes :)